It’s a uniquely disconcerting experience to awaken to a story in the international news about a building you were in just the night before. Such was my unparalleled experience when I was thus informed that the binary nerve agent novichok had made its way to the English village in which I live. Suddenly, for me, the evil that is Vladimir Putin went straight from being theoretical to being very personal.
So my contempt and hatred of Russia’s president is nothing new. I put nothing past him. Putin is without question one of the most dangerous men on earth, and he has proven it yet again. This time he has turned his evil gaze to the nation of Ukraine. He wants to add the country to his growing list of assets and is using Ukraine’s push to join NATO as a pretext for invasion. He also wants to significantly redraw the European security architecture in Russia’s favor, and reestablish Russia in the image of the old Soviet Union.
Last month, while further building up troops along Ukraine’s border with Russia, Putin demanded that NATO bar Ukraine from joining the alliance. The demand included ending NATO’s eastward expansion and removal of NATO forces and equipment from former Soviet and Warsaw Pact countries. NATO and Washington both remain “loud and clear” in their determination not to be bullied by the Russian strongman.
Putin is using an old Russian playbook, one that was used in 1968 as a Soviet pretext for invading Czechoslovakia, and again in 1980 as a pretext for invading Afghanistan. And of course Putin used it himself when in 2014 Russia annexed Crimea. It’s a playbook borrowed from Hitler and Mussolini who in turn borrowed it from every other dictatorship in history. Invasion of a neighbor is the first rule of the tyrant.
Of course, Putin has been on this course for a very long time. Indeed, Ukraine has been under threat from its larger and more powerful neighbor since the day the Soviet Union fell. Donald Trump exploited Ukraine’s perilous geographic misfortune in a bid to dig up dirt on his political opponent, exposing Trump once again for the truly evil man he is.
Even so, Vladimir Putin could teach Trump not only a thing or two about being evil, but a thing or two about being rich. Some analysts believe that Putin is existentially the richest man in the world. Some suggest he may even be the world’s first trillionaire.
Having felt the hard steel edge of Putin’s evil myself, I don’t think there is any wickedness that he won’t stoop to in his insatiable lust for power and riches. Vladimir Putin will probably take Ukraine if we let him, and right now he’s testing the waters to see how much he can get away with before he vIolates Ukraine’s sovereign borders. And, as ever, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades and friends, stay safe.
Robert Harrington is an American expat living in Britain. He is a portrait painter.